Call for £13.5bn education recovery plan indicates the challenges ahead

We already know that the Covid pandemic has damaged children’s educational progress and their wider physical and mental wellbeing. Research published today by the Education Policy Institute gives an idea of the cost of repairing some of that damage: it is calling for £13.5 billion to be spent by the government in a multi-year programme of recovery. We also already know that the pandemic has merely exacerbated existing problems and inequalities. High on any priority list of those problems and inequalities is children’s literacy.

The Education Policy Institute (EPI) is a UK thinktank. Its report, Education recovery and resilience in England, includes research that indicates that all year groups have experienced a learning loss in reading during the pandemic and that schools with high levels of disadvantage have experienced higher levels of learning loss than other schools.

According to its website, the EPI is calling on the government to implement policies including “extended school hours for social and academic activities, additional Pupil Premium funding, summer wellbeing programmes, more incentives for teachers to work in ‘challenging areas’, further mental health support in schools and an option for some pupils to retake the year.”

It also calls for additional investment beyond schools “in wider children’s services and mental health services” and “an urgent child poverty strategy”.

You can read more about the EPI’s report here.

The damage to children’s learning caused by the pandemic makes an already existing problem even worse. As the EPI also points out, disadvantaged pupils are already 18 months of learning behind their more affluent peers by the time they take their GCSEs at 16.

In a recent post we argued that “we do [not do] enough to make it easy and fun for our children to read. We need to give them every encouragement to develop the habit of reading for pleasure so that they carry a love of reading with them into adulthood.”

We have said that the development of oracy — the ability to express oneself fluently and grammatically in speech — needs as much attention as reading, writing and numeracy.

We have also highlighted the shocking fact that school library provision is extremely uneven across the country, with schools in areas of highest deprivation having the worst provision.

Literacy is crucial to people’s life chances, as this article on the website of SEN Magazine explains:

Children who do not reach the expected standards of early language and communication by the age of five are six times less likely to reach the expected standard in English at age 11 and twice as likely to be unemployed at the age of 34. These children will also be at a greater risk of experiencing poverty, living in poor quality housing and having poor mental and physical health as adults.

from the website of SEN Magazine

However, the same article points out that in 2018 more than 180,000 five-year-olds started primary school without the language, literacy and communication skills they need to learn and flourish and that 25% of of 11-year-olds left primary school unable to read well.

National Literacy Trust research indicates that:

  • children who enjoy reading and writing are happier with their lives
  • 1 in 11 disadvantaged children in the UK say that they don’t have a book of their own
  • children born into communities with the most serious literacy challenges have some of the lowest life expectancies in England. It gives the example that “a boy born in Stockton Town Centre (an area with serious literacy challenges) has a life expectancy 26.1 years shorter than a boy born in North Oxford”

The National Literacy Trust is one of many organisations working to improve literacy. It describes itself as an independent charity working with schools and communities to give disadvantaged children the literacy skills to succeed in life. It also takes part in campaigning work to raise awareness among policymakers and produces new research on issues relating to literacy.

Its website offers a wealth of information and resources to support literacy teaching at early years, primary and secondary levels. Its resources section for primary schools, for example, covers reading, writing, oracy and planning assessments. Recent themes include ideas around the forthcoming Euro 2020 [sic] football tournament and 100 literacy ideas to celebrate Captain Tom’s inspirational efforts.

The National Literacy Trust website features in the Links area of the Forum website. There is a page for each of the nine life-based learning themes, with links (a) to sites with teaching ideas and resources for immediate use in the classroom and in curriculum planning (b) to a range of information-rich websites relevant to life-based learning.

We are always looking to expand the Links area of the website and welcome suggestions for additional links to high-quality websites. You can contact us here.

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Image at the head of this article by Ben Kerckx from Pixabay.

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